The Commuter

Liam Neeson is no stranger to action films. Having a late career resurgence as a ‘mature’ action star in the ‘Taken’ movies among others, Neeson’s emotional intensity have made them compulsive viewing. ‘The Commuter’ is no different as it thrives on his commanding delivery. His leading man credentials remain intact as he navigates another labyrinthine plot of skulduggery with his physical manoeuvres becoming an inspiration to the over-fifties set.

Insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson) is on a train heading home after a tough day. Sadly it’s about to get worse when he receives a mysterious invitation from a stranger offering him $100,000. Asked to identify a hidden passenger before the train’s last stop, little does Michael know the web in which he is now caught. Dragged into a shadowy criminal conspiracy, Michael races against time to solve the puzzle. His life and those of his fellow passengers hang in the balance as the train moves towards its final destination.

‘The Commuter’ is a load of nonsense full of plot inconsistencies and occasionally dodgy acting. It’s also a lot of fun and has a continual air of moody tension. Films like ‘The Commuter’ don’t exist for critics but for undemanding audiences looking for spectacular action. They certainly get that with the characters facing death at every turn. The plot deftly mixes mystery and suspense within a ‘Die Hard on a Train’ motif creating an exciting package. You know what you’re getting for the ticket price and if you go in without too many expectations you’ll be rewarded with an enjoyably over the top romp.

None of this would work without Neeson’s presence. His character’s stoic conviction amidst an outlandish scenario provides the believability the story needs. However ridiculous it gets, you’re still drawn in due to his performance as well as the other cast members. The direction and CGI are decent without being ground-breaking. It is difficult making something new out of the predictable action formula. But everyone gives it a good shot with the cinematography and action sequences well staged even if the pacing slows down towards the end.

‘The Commuter’ is hardly ‘Gone with the Wind’ but it’s a consistently entertaining thriller. It delivers on the promise in the trailers and fans of Neeson’s other action movies shouldn’t be disappointed. It may make others think twice about catching a train however as this is one train ride ‘The Commuter’s’ characters won’t forget in a hurry.

Rating out of 10: 7

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

The teenage action/romance book craze of the early ‘00’s sparked a litany of film adaptations. The ‘Twilight’ ‘Harry Potter’ movies benefited from the enormous popularity of their literary counterparts. Based on the James Dashner book trilogy, the ‘Maze Runner’ films have followed a similar path. Whilst barely distinguishable from the rest, the series has had better performances and focus. ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ is the final chapter in the saga as it departs cinemas with lots of noise and angst rivalling any teenage dilemma.

Still trapped in a dystopian future where death stalks them at every corner, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends face a new challenge. Leading his group, including Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), on a final mission, Thomas must re-enter the Last City. A deadly labyrinth, the city holds the answers Thomas and everyone have been looking for. Almost reaching the end of their quest the chances of making it out alive decrease as their strange world swiftly closes in around them.

‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ is an occasionally interesting science-fiction yarn without being memorable. Whilst the action sequences are spectacular and the acting is above average, there’s a definite familiarity about it all. Moments rather than the whole film come alive with the script leaning towards predictability than offering genuine surprises. ‘The Death Cure’ doesn’t particularly offer anything new although it neatly concludes the trilogy.

Perhaps the lack of innovation falls to the choice of director, Wes Ball, who filmed the previous entries. He shows little flair in spicing up the narrative and leaves the heavy lifting to his stars. All do their best amidst the usual explosions and death-defying stunts. But there’s never a sense of true danger or tension. Much of this is due to the pacing with the story needing editing. A long run-time doesn’t make for a better film even if the characters are fleshed out more than usual.

Book to screen adaptations come and go like a rate of knots. ‘Maze Runner: The Death Curse’ isn’t the worst but nor is it the best. It falls somewhere in between, trapped in a creative purgatory with innovation taking a back seat. It was fun enough while it lasted although one hopes the next series of books receive greater handling on their journey to the silver screen.

Rating out of 10: 6